Swift's mastery of her own feckless image is as finely honed a piece of work as any of Red's half-dozen singles; it engages so many of the common expectations of girlhood that it presents us with an impossibly perfected persona. Those controlled iterations of Swift are subject to constant remix due to her celebrity status, where her songs conflate with the tabloid fare of her life and create a grander narrative work. Be they peer, cad, or Kennedy, each new Swift boyfriend presents or disproves some song theorem of Red. The latest heavily circulated pap shot, which, this week, is Swift exiting a tropical isle, alone, via small craft, reads as forlorn from a distance of a pixely 30 yards—adding chiaroscuro to "Sad Beautiful Tragic." Swift's got a Joni problem now: The interest in whom she's seeing and speculation over which song is about which dude now obfuscates the merits of her work (though it is hard to suggest any human force could blunt the thundering Max Martin'd chorus of "Trouble," but alas).

Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift


See the full 2012 Pazz and Jop Critics Poll.


Miguel Is Living The Dream
Sex takes center stage on his sophomore album
By Brian McManus

Frank Ocean's Sea Change
His musical and personal honesty made waves in 2012
By Eric Sundermann

A Trip Through Fiona Apple's Wheelhouse
The singer-songwriter wrestles with the idea of mind as machine
By Audra Schroeder

Kendrick Lamar, Finally Compton's Most Wanted
It took quite some time for the rapper to become an overnight success
By Jeff Weiss

The Confounding, Inexplicable Splendor of Rapper Future
Space is the place
By Rob Harvilla

Pazz & Jop: Taylor Swift, Grimes, and Lana Del Rey: The Year in Blond Ambition
How dare they have an image
By Jessica Hopper

You Don't Know Jack (White)
After a dozen years in the public eye, the man proves he can still surprise us
By Alan Light

Riff Raff Is Keeping It Surreal
He's believable as a hip-hop star because nothing he says is true
By Ben Westhoff

Travel Tips From Touring Bands
By Kiernan Maletsky

A Note on Crap
True art lives where no one is paying attention. Or probably not.
By David Thorpe


Top 40 Albums
The year's big albums, from Frank Ocean on down

Top 42 Singles
"Call Me Maybe" kicks off the top of the pops

Pazz & Jop Comments
The who, the what, the where, and the why, why, why

The Top 25 Album Covers
A lovingly hand-assembled gallery

Tabulation Notes
Weak consensus versus inspiring diversity
By Glenn McDonald

To be galled by these three women's advances upon their audiences is to play the Pollyanna about how and why music is sold and produced, how any product gets across the transom to us. In their manipulations and fluid manifestations of their images, they show incredible deftness—a cultural prescience that speaks to their ambition and interest in being understood. All this girlish guile makes their art no less pure.

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